Psalm 19 is a wisdom psalm. Wisdom psalms are to do with the contrast between the righteous and the wicked; the righteous follow the way of the Lord and are blessed by God; whereas the wicked go astray and, in the end, they will perish. And, of course, the way of the Lord is made known in the Scriptures where God reveals his will for his people and the way we should go. And, of course, God not only makes himself known in his word, but he also makes himself known through his creation. He speaks to us through his works and through his word; through what he has made and through what he has said. And that’s what Psalm 19 is about. Verses 1 to 6 are about how God reveals himself through what he has made; and verses 7 to 11 are about how God reveals himself through his word. And then, in verses 12 to 14, the psalmist responds to God’s revelation.
Verses 1 to 6
Let’s turn to verses 1 to 6 and how God reveals himself to us through what he has made.
‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ When David refers to the heavens and the skies, he’s referring to everything we can see above us, including the sun and moon and the stars and planets. And he’s saying to us that these things speak to us and declare to us the glory of God. They proclaim to us the greatness of God who made these things and who sustains them day after day. And so, according to verse 2, day after day and night after day, they pour forth speech and they display knowledge. The phrases ‘day after day’ and ‘night after night’ emphasise that the testimony which the creation proclaims is continuous. The modern way of saying it is that they speak to us 24/7, because all through the day and all through the night, and every day of the week, the heavens above speak to us of God’s glory. They say to us: Isn’t God great, because he made this. Isn’t he powerful? Isn’t he wise? Isn’t he good? Isn’t he glorious?
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. That’s in verse 3 and it means that the message of the heavens about God’s glory is made known around the world, because human language is not a barrier which might keep people from hearing what the heavens are saying. In fact, their voice goes out into all the earth and their words go out to the ends of the world.
And from the second half of verse 4 to the end of verse 6, David focusses on one part of God’s creation: the sun. He compares the sun to a man, to a bridegroom even; and he compares the night sky to a tent. And so, this man comes out of his tent in the morning and he triumphantly and joyfully runs his course throughout the day, before going back into his tent. And David is, of course, describing how the sun appears to rise in the morning and crosses the sky and goes down at night. And nothing is hidden from its heat, because the sun gives light and heat to the earth. And the fact that nothing is hidden from its heat once again emphasises the universality of this revelation. The sun in the sky — as well as everything else which God has made — bears witness to everyone of God’s glory. No one can say they never knew God, because everything around us makes God known.
Verses 7 to 11
God has not only revealed himself to us in what he has made, but he was also revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures. And David writes about the Scriptures in verses 7 to 11. And, of course, when David refers to the Scriptures, he’s thinking of the Old Testament Scriptures which contains law and statutes and precepts and commandments and ordinances. These are all synonyms for God’s word.
Now, when we hear the phrase ‘law of the Lord’, we think of the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s rules. But the law of the Lord in the Old Testament also contains instructions about the sacrifices the people were to offer for their sins. And so, God’s law is perfect and it revives the soul, because the law shows sinners how to receive forgiveness from God. The phrase ‘statutes of the Lord’ can also be translated as ‘testimony of the Lord’ and these are all the laws and commandments which formed the terms of God’s covenant with his people. We’ve been reading about these things in the book of Deuteronomy on Sunday evenings. And the testimony of the Lord is sure, because the people can trust in the Lord to remain faithful to his covenant promises; and God’s testimony make us wise, because it makes clear to even the most simple person what’s the best way to live. The ‘precepts of the Lord’ also relate to the covenant and since all the terms of God’s covenant are right, they lead to joy. The ‘commands of the Lord’ are radiant, giving light to the eyes, because they give us understanding and they make clear God’s will for his people. By means of his commands, the Lord says to us that this is the way to live. The next synonym for God’s word is ‘fear’; which is an unusual way to refer to God’s word. However, David probably describes God’s word as ‘fear’, because knowing God’s word produces fear or reverence in the hearts of God’s people. When we read God’s word, we become aware of God’s glory and majesty and power and it causes us to bow in his presence and to humble ourselves before him, because he is God and we are not. Interestingly, in Deuteronomy 31, which we’re study on Sunday evening, Moses commanded the Levites to read the entire law to the Israelites at the end of every seven years. ‘Do this’, he said, ‘so that they will listen and learn to fear the Lord their God.’ And by fearing him, Moses says, they will be careful to obey him. Well, the fear of the Lord is ‘pure’, says David. In other words, God’s word — which produces fear — is pure. There are no impurities in it and it endures forever. And finally, the ‘ordinances of the Lord’ — that is, the things that he has ordained in his word — are sure and altogether righteous. That means they are true and right.
God’s word is perfect and trustworthy and right and radiant and pure and sure. God’s word revives the soul and it makes us wise and it gives joy to the heart and it gives light to the eyes, and it endures forever and it is always right. And therefore, God’s word and all that it contains is more precious than gold and it’s sweeter than honey, because unlike gold and unlike honey, it’s able to warn us away from what’s evil; and those who keep the law of the Lord will be rewarded. So, God’s word is desirable because it shows us God’s will and what we ought to do in order to live a life that is pleasing to him. And when we love the Lord, that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? When we love the Lord, our heart’s desire is to please him. And God has given us his word to show us how to do that.
Verses 12 to 14
God reveals himself through what he has made. And God reveals himself through his word.
And in the final part of the psalm, David the psalmist responds to God’s revelation. And he responds to God’s revelation by confessing his sinfulness. He refers to his errors and to his hidden faults and to his wilful sins. Errors and hidden faults are sins of ignorance. That is, they’re the sins we commit out of ignorance of God’s law; or the sins we commit by mistake; sins we commit almost without knowing it. By contrast, wilful sins are those things which we know are wrong, but we still do them anyhow, because we’re sinners.
And so, David prays, asking the Lord to forgive him for his hidden sins and to keep him from wilful sins. He knows he’s a sinner who sins against the Lord continually and who is liable to go astray. And he prays for the Lord’s help so that he will be blameless and innocent of great transgression. And he prays to the Lord to help him so that his speech and his thoughts will be pleasing in God’s sight. As one of the commentators puts it, then he will be able to join the heavens and the word of God in bringing glory and honour to the Lord God.
This is a psalm about God’s revelation. He reveals himself in his works and in his word; through what he has made and through what he has said. However, he has revealed himself most fully in his Son, Jesus Christ. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. And we might add, on the basis of this psalm, that he also spoke to our forefathers through his creation. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.
And, in fact, everything we have read about the creation and God’s word can be said of Jesus Christ. Like the heavens above, the Lord Jesus revealed the glory of God. And like God’s word, the Lord Jesus is perfect and trustworthy and right and radiant and pure and sure. And he revives our tired and weary souls; and he makes us wise so that we know God truly; and he gives joy to our hearts in the forgiveness of our sins; and he gives light to our eyes, taking away our spiritual blindness; and he endures forever, because he’s the same yesterday, today and forever; and he is altogether righteous. So, this psalm points us to Christ, because God not only reveals himself in his creation and in his word, but he has also reveals himself to us in his Son.
The psalm also points us to Christ, because, unlike David, the Lord’s words and thoughts were always pleasing in God’s sight. So, David had to confess his sins at the end of the psalm, because he knew that he was not righteous. He knew that he was a sinner who had committed hidden sins and who was liable even to commit wilful sins. God had made him to glorify God, but David knew that often he dishonoured the Lord by the things he said and thought. But the Lord Jesus glorified God at all times; and he never did anything wrong, but he did everything right. And so, in everything he said and in everything he thought, he glorified his Father in heaven. And through faith in him, you are reconciled to God and can look forward to coming into the presence of God in heaven, where you will spend eternity praising God and glorifying him for all that he has done for you by his Son. There, having been made perfect forever, you will declare the glory of God and you will proclaim like the rest of creation that our God is great.
But this psalm also points us to the preaching of the gospel. In Romans 10, Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on one they have not believed in? And how can they believe unless they first hear? And how can they hear unless someone preaches? And how will they preach unless they are sent? And so, God has sent out preachers into all the world to preach the message of Christ so that sinners will hear and believe and call out to him for salvation.
And then Paul asks about the Jews:
Did they not hear?
And Paul answers his own question by quoting from Psalm 19:
Their voice has gone into all the earth; their words to the ends of the world.
In the Psalm, David was referring to the voice of creation. The voice of creation has gone out into all the earth to declare to the ends of the world the glory of God. But Paul applies that same verse to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ has gone out into all the earth and it has been declared to the ends of the world, because after the Lord’s death and resurrection, he commanded the apostles to make disciples of all nations. And so, wherever they went, they proclaimed the good news of salvation. And that same message is still being preached throughout the world to every nation by preachers sent by God; and everywhere, men and women and children are commanded to repent and to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world.
So, those who, in the end, are condemned by God cannot complain and say they never heard of God, because the truth is that God has made himself known in creation and he has made himself known in the gospel. So, no one can complain. But you can give thanks that the message came to you and that the Lord enabled you not only to hear it, but to believe it so that you could call out to the Lord and be saved.